by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – On July 4, the Political Leader of the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP), Dr Janice Daniel-Hodge, wrote an open letter to the Integrity In Public Life Commission on Nevis requesting an investigation into a US$44 million Citizenship by Investment project to be developed by the Hon. Spencer Brand, the Public Works Minister in the Nevis Island Administration.
In an invited comment on July 5 with WINN, the NRP Leader expressed that she was hopeful “that the Integrity Commission would see this as an opportunity to demonstrate that they are indeed an objective and independent body that can help to address these matters as they pertain to governance in St. Kitts and Nevis.”
A few days later, Integrity in Public Life Commission on Nevis responded with a letter signed by the Chair of the commission on Nevis Ricaldo Caines, suggesting they do not have the authority to fulfil Dr Daniel-Hodge’s request for an investigation into the matter.
The letter addressed concerns about the CBI project’s existence, the NRP leader’s request for an independent investigation, secrecy and abuse of office, and explained that the Integrity in Public Life Commission on Nevis has no power to fulfil the request.
The letter reads, “on a review of the Ordinance and an assessment of the complaint filed, this matter does not fall within the lawful remit of the Commission based on the Ordinance. The Commission has no power to authorise an investigator or a team of investigators to conduct an independent investigation of the matters raised in your complaint.”
The land for the project’s buildout was acquired in 2008 by Minister Brand and his wife according to a statement on the matter from the minister. He then began his attempt to develop the property with a 70-room Hotel project that has yet to come to fruition or receive funding to start.
The Commission further stated that it could “only investigate the Declarations filed by the Honourable Minister Spencer Brand for the filing periods 2018-2019; 2019-2020; 2020-2021 into the accuracy or fullness of a declaration filed with us by him. The law requires that all investigations are done in private, and the Person in Public Life be accorded due process against any allegations in accordance with natural justice, the constitution and the laws of St. Kitts and Nevis.”
The response pointed out that there are two Integrity Commissions in St. Kitts and Nevis; a federal commission and one specifically for Nevis.
According to the Nevis Commission, the Integrity in Public Life Act No.18 of 2013 of St. Kitts and Nevis differs from the Integrity in Public Life Ordinance, No. 2 of 2013 for Nevis. The Act governs the Federal Government and Statutory Bodies of St. Kitts and Nevis. The Ordinance governs individuals employed by the Nevis Island Administration, Nevis Island Assembly, Statutory Bodies and Public Bodies on Nevis.
“The Federal law in Section 24 of the Integrity in Public Life Act No.18 of 2013 of St. Kitts and Nevis allows for the St. Kitts Commission established by this law to investigate complaints and appoint investigators to conduct investigations; however, the Ordinance that governs the Commission on the Island of Nevis, unfortunately, does not include this section. While the Integrity Commission Nevis has been operationalised, and we have been accepting Declarations on the Island of Nevis, the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has not issued the relevant regulations to enable the Integrity Commission on St. Kitts to require members of the National Assembly, the Cabinet, Civil Servants, officers of Statutory Bodies and other public officials to file their Declarations of Assets, Liabilities and Income with the St. Kitts Integrity Commission,” read the letter.
The operationalisation of the federal commission has been a topic of concern for some time in St. Kitts. It is now an explanation as to why the Nevis commission cannot fulfil the request of the opposition leader on Nevis.
The issue of abuse of office as grounds for an investigation on behalf of the people of Nevis is covered under Federal law in Section 27 of the Integrity in Public Life Act No.18 of 2013 of St. Kitts and Nevis, which speaks explicitly to abuse of office by a public official and the consequences of such behaviour.
According to the letter, the Nevis Ordinance does not have a section that speaks to the abuse of power in it, limiting the powers and actions that the Integrity Commission on Nevis can take.
The Commission said they hope that the Nevis Island Administration and the Nevis Island Assembly will revisit the Ordinance and allow for a “wholesale modernisation of the Ordinance” to authorise and empower the Commission with the powers to have public officials comply with the Ordinance and be held accountable.
See the complete response here: Integrity Commission’s Response to Dr Janice Daniel-Hodge 7.7.2022